Cloudy skies and the threat of rain did little to dampen the mood of an eager crowd on Wednesday as 538 Vineland High School seniors took to the field at historic Gittone Stadium for the 144th annual Commencement Ceremony.
Despite the weather and new safety regulations in place, the crowd’s cheers for the soon-to-be graduates filled the stadium as the students filed to their seats on the turf. Many of the graduates let their creativity shine through colorfully decorated caps, reflecting on both the struggles they’ve faced in the last few years and their hopes for the future.
Vineland High School principal Suzette DeMarchi officially began the ceremony by welcoming the students, parents, and other guests before recognizing the hardships the students have overcome in their last two-and-a-half years of high school.
“You are truly a resilient and amazing group of students,” DeMarchi said. “I commend you, as you have proven over and over that nothing is beyond your reach.”
Following DeMarchi was Class of 2022 president Yahira Cuevas, who reflected on how the Covid-19 pandemic affected their years at VHS and how they were able to overcome the road bumps.
“I truly believe that our class has the capability and strength to push aside the struggles and keep moving forward,” Cuevas said. “By pushing through, we have demonstrated that we can be resilient.”
Speaking on behalf of the Student Government Association was president Azia Rogers, who encouraged her classmates to take their time instead of rushing through life.
“I held my ground, and I made it here today,” Rogers said. “At a point in time in our life, we are going to come to a stop. That means slow down. Life has ways of teaching you lessons.”
Following Roger’s speech, Cuevas presented DeMarchi with the class gift: a bench to be placed in the butterfly garden at VHS South.
Vineland Mayor Anthony Fanucci, speaking next, gave the Class of 2022 a challenge.
“Continue to succeed,” Fanucci said. “Continue to excel. Continue to defy the odds, and do me the biggest favor ever: continue not to make excuses. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid if you never try.”
Superintendent Alfonso Llano took the stage next, relishing his first graduation after joining the district last July.
“You are a unique and special group of individuals; your accomplishments are significant,” Llano said. “Your class has set a standard for unity, spirit, hard work, service, and consideration for others. You have earned our congratulations and recognition, and now you are prepared to make your own impression on the world.”
Llano then introduced a surprise speaker to the crowd: VHS Class of 2018 graduate Isaih Pacheco, who was recently honored by the city and school district after his selection in the NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Riding up to the field in a golf cart, Pacheco waved at the cheering crowd before making his way to the podium to provide perspective from a recent grad.
“I was sitting in these seats four years ago, and I’m here to tell you today that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and education,” Pacheco said. “You can accomplish greatness. We are Vineland and we rise as one.”
Rounding out the speeches was Board of Education president Meghan Spinelli, who reminded the students that their individuality will help them get far in life.
“Each of you is unique, with skills and talents that the world cannot be without,” Spinelli said. “You are brave, strong, capable, hopeful, and if you look around, you are loved.”
The ceremony concluded with students receiving their diplomas by twos and then exiting the platform on their way to new lives in higher education, military service, and employment.
The Commencement Exercises were videotaped by VPS TV and will be broadcast on Comcast Channel 9 throughout the summer. It can also be viewed on our YouTube channel, VLDSchoolsTV, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXEZNaKMUZs
Click on the link below for a gallery of still photos of the 2022 Commencement: https://bit.ly/3NdvU7L